BREMERTON — West Sound Warriors forward Alec Johnson always gets a kick out of seeing the children lined up to get high fives and fist bumps from himself and his teammates.
After all, he was one of those children.
Johnson, now 20, began skating at the Bremerton Ice Center when he was three years old. He remembers waiting for those high fives from past players as they headed to the locker room at intermission.
As soon as he was old enough, he jumped at the chance to play youth hockey as a teenager at his home rink.
“The first year they had a team I was on it,” he said.
Johnson, of Port Orchard, is in his second stint with the Warriors, having returned to play after spending a season in Aspen, Colo. He couldn’t be happier to be home and helping West Sound to a winning season and to make a return to the postseason
“It’s awesome,” he said. “Especially when I went to Colorado and hearing about the team (struggling).”
Warriors coach Ty Smith said it’s always a boon to have an experienced player on the team, but it’s extra special the player is a Kitsap native who is very good.
“He’s a top-end talented kid, and he has a shot,” Smith said of Johnson, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 201 pounds at eliteprospects.com.
“He’s really outgoing, and he brings it every day,” Smith continued. “He’s a big strong kid that gets those shots off. It’s been great to have him.”
The Aspen Leafs and West Sound aren’t the only teams Johnson has played for during his junior career. Johnson played for the Everett Junior Silvertips 16U in 2014-15, the Spokane Braves in 2015-16 before playing for West Sound midseason. Johnson played 38 games for Aspen last season, finishing with 27 assists, 18 goals, and 45 points. In 42 games so far for West Sound, he has 17 goals, 23 assists, and 40 points.
Smith said Johnson’s size is an asset, no doubt, and he can and does need to get quicker, but his work ethic and willingness to learn will take him far.
Johnson, who also works full-time, will play another season of juniors before heading to college. He wants to play at Eastern Washington University.
“I had a lot of friends when I played in Spokane, and it’s a good college,” Johnson said.
Smith said Johnson will be able to handle the workload of playing college hockey and being a student.
“Some kids, they can’t go to school and play, but he has that personality that he can,” he said. “He’s the most level-headed player we have. He doesn’t get too up or too down. He just competes.”
Johnson’s experience and savvy on the ice will be needed as West Sound will begin the Western States Hockey League postseason next month. The Warriors have struggled recently, dropping from second place in the Northwest Division to fourth. They have six games left in the regular season.
So, can the Warriors shake off the doldrums and go deep in the playoffs?
Johnson calls it a “million-dollar question.”
“Some days we can put up nine-10 goals in a game and other games not score it all,” he said.
The Warriors will have an opportunity to turn things around when they host the Lake Tahoe Icemen March 2-4 in Bremerton.